Keeping empty properties secure can be cheaper in the long-run
EMPTY pubs and restaurants are not exciting, writes Mark Cosh of vacant property management firm SitexOrbis. No-one – brewery, pub owner or customer – wants to see an empty pub unless it is undergoing refurbishment.
But the number of vacant properties is increasing, thanks to a combination of soaring beer duty, cut-price supermarket alcohol deals, the smoking ban, changes to licensing law and the recession – three of Scotland’s 5200 pubs close every week, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.
Empty pubs and restaurants mean the loss of rental income for property owners and the threat of intruders, vandals, arson, graffiti and fly-tipping.
The rise in the scrap value of metal has seen a dramatic increase in theft of copper and lead from properties. These thefts not only cause costly damage to property but can result in life-threatening situations, such as gas explosions.
The substantial sums it costs to replace the stolen metal is only half of the story. Lost lead from a building’s roof can cause severe leaks resulting in the cost of replastering and redecorating; property contents can also be damaged. Stolen copper piping causes problems with heating systems and water supply.
In addition, empty pubs are vulnerable to arsonists. In March this year a derelict pub in Dundee was gutted by an arson attack; while in June a blaze destroyed the Silver Tassie in Leven, which had been empty for more than a year.
All of which means that keeping vacant property secure is cheaper than dealing with problems after they occur.
Here are some top tips:
• Conduct a risk assessment and take precautions. The assessment should look at how intruders could access the property. Disconnect services to prevent water damage or fire risk and check protective installations like fire detection and alarm systems.
• Keep up appearances – don’t advertise the fact a property is vacant. Unkempt external areas, whether caused by graffiti, fly-tipping, long grass or untidy planting, together with broken windows, all show potential thieves and arsonists a property is unoccupied. Sealing up the letterbox ensures that a pile of post doesn’t become fuel for an arsonist. Keep the building and its surrounding clean and tidy and if waste is dumped or the area is targeted by graffiti artists, clean up the damage quickly to prevent problems escalating.
• Secure the premises. Make sure you are complying with your insurer’s requirements and that the premises are adequately protected with a combination of perimeter fencing, concrete blocks, videofied alarms and, for determined thieves, use of an intelligent wireless and keyless security system which is robust enough and which works even when the individual units of the system are disabled.
• Inform your insurer. If you know a pub or restaurant in your portfolio is going to become vacant, tell your insurance firm. It is essential to follow the insurer’s requirements – for pubs this usually means regular mandatory physical inspections, which includes photographic date/time stamped evidence to provide the necessary audit trail.